Which canoe paddle is best?
Alhough inexpensive, a good canoe paddle can determine how fast and efficiently you get from point A to point B in your canoe. Thankfully, canoe paddles come at a small cost. Choosing the perfect canoe paddle requires careful consideration and knowledge of basic canoe terminology. When buying a canoe paddle, consider the length of the paddle, grip, blade shape and shaft design — all these factors play into how smoothly and efficiently you’re able to propel your canoe forward.
If you’re looking for a conveniently compact paddle with ideal power and leverage, Attwood Emergency Telescoping Paddle is an excellent choice.
What to know before you buy a canoe paddle
When buying a canoe paddle, it’s important to consider the length of the paddle in relation to the length of your body. This factor is crucial in finding the shortest possible paddle that makes the canoe move quickly and is comfortable for you.
Paddlers hold their grip so their top hand rests just about at the height of the nose and the point where the blade meets the shaft at the waterline when in a stroke position. To find this exact measurement, measure the length of your torso by sitting up straight on a chair and measuring the distance from the surface of the chair to your nose. For straight shaft paddles, add the blade length and an additional 2-4 inches to get the final paddle size.
Grip is important in determining exactly how you’re able to hold onto the paddle, depending on the type of excursion you’re using the paddle for.
Palm grip: The palm grip is designed to fit the palm of the hand. Straight shaft paddles with a palm grip are often called Freestyle palm grips. This means the grip is symmetrical and allows paddlers to use either side, making the constant back and forth switch easier. A classic palm grip can be seen on a bent shaft and has an asymmetrical grip.
T-grip: Those utilizing T-grip paddles can wrap their fingers around the handle for added control. Pushing your thumb against the outside end of the grip when maneuvering allows you to apply leverage to rotate the canoe. This is particularly useful when changing direction. These are used for more strenuous adventures such as rafting expeditions.
White water: White water blades can go by many different names, but the one thing they have in common is a square tip. These designs are ideal for rough terrain and provide the control and stability needed to get through various conditions with ease. These can also be used by flatwater canoers who want to increase their propulsion.
Beavertail/Otter tail: The long and slender blades on the beavertail and otter tail paddles allow for easy maneuverability, which is great for solo canoes. They offer added control and provide a smooth entry and exit off the water. These are designed to paddle in shallow conditions without breakage as well as in deep-water lakes. It takes less energy to propel these styles of paddles than it does a white water, square-tipped paddle.
Straight: Straight shaft paddles are flat on both sides of the paddle, adding extra control and maneuverability to their operation. This paddle is versatile and is best for narrow rivers or white water use. Paddlers who sit in the back of the canoe and paddlers who ride solo benefit greatly from this, as they control the direction of the canoe.
Bent: Bent shaft paddles are built for power. The blade is angled, which allows it to remain vertical in the water so you use less energy per stroke when paddling. These work well for flatwater trips as well as long-distance paddling and racing. Paddlers who sit in the front of the canoe prefer this style of shaft due to the lack of steering needed.
For more information, take a look at the full canoe paddle buying guide from BestReviews.
What to look for in a quality canoe paddle
Although people prefer the traditional style wood paddle, it requires more maintenance over time than those made with composite materials. Wood is buoyant, flexible and dense. It’s heavier to control but provides a more balanced and controlled canoeing experience. Canoe paddles made of composite materials like carbon and fiberglass are extremely light and strong. For canoers looking for a lightweight paddle, carbon and fiberglass are a good option. These are less flexible but still durable while being lighter to control.
Some companies offer resin-coated paddles. This resin can be found either on the entire edge of the paddle or just the tip. If you plan to canoe through white water, resin coating can make your paddle last longer, due to the added protection.
If you’re using a wood paddle, you risk the chance of it splitting at the ends. There are a number of different ways to protect the tip of a wood paddle from splitting. Some companies wrap the end of the blade in fiberglass, while others coat it with resin. Users can purchase an aluminum or silicone tip insert if they plan to experience more wear and tear on their paddles.
How much you can expect to spend on a canoe paddle
You can find cheaply made canoe paddles with less dense material for $10-$25, while paddles in the $30-$35 range are more durable and easier to control. Higher-end paddles go for $40-$70.
Canoe paddle FAQ
How do you know if your canoe paddle is balanced?
A. To determine balance of a paddle, grasp the paddle just above the joining of the shaft and the blade. The paddle should rest horizontally with a slight weight balance toward the blade. Avoid a paddle that dives blade-down as soon as released or one that’s grip-heavy. This makes it harder to paddle.
What’s the best canoe paddle to buy?
Top canoe paddle
What you need to know: The Attwood Emergency Telescoping Paddle combines the power and control of a 42-inch paddle with a convenient 20-inch design that can be easily stored.
What you’ll love: This paddle is made from durable plastic and corrosion-resistant aluminum. It’s designed to float so you’ll never lose it in the water.
What you should consider: This product has been known to break in white-water circumstances.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top canoe paddle for the money
What you need to know: This paddle is able to maneuver through rough terrain and is lightweight. It’s designed with a special shaft to ensure maximum control.
What you’ll love: The product is only 4 feet long and is easy to store. The strong aluminum shaft and durable blade promise a smooth paddling experience.
What you should consider: The shaft is more bent than noted in the description and pictures.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This canoe paddle provides a T-shaped grip that makes paddling easier. The handle doubles as a boat hook and the shaft is aluminum to ensure strength and durability.
What you’ll love: With its lightweight construction and easy handling, this canoe paddle promotes efficient paddling while lessening fatigue for long trips.
What to consider: You have to repeatedly shake this paddle to get it dry before storing. It isn’t very water resistant.
Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods
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Logan DeLoye writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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